You've heard of a birth plan — in fact, I bet you already have one on your bedside table. But what about a breastfeeding plan? Personally, I assumed breastfeeding would just come naturally. Unfortunately, just because nursing is natural doesn't mean it's easy, and the more we learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, the more sense it makes to prep for success in any way possible. Which is why knowing how to create a breastfeeding plan is so incredibly important for those first few days in the hospital and beyond.
Joy Frazer of Joy of Life Family Medicine is a midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in Durango, Colorado, where she teaches a breastfeeding worshop to women in their second and third trimesters. She often cites research that breastfeeding success rates increase with prenatal education. "So that would be my top two in the breastfeeding plan," she explains in an interview with Romper. "Take a breastfeeding class, ideally one taught by an IBCLC prior to delivery."
Writing your breastfeeding plan means educating yourself well. You should know what a good latch looks like, that a baby should breastfeed six to eight times in the first 24 hours, and perhaps most importantly, you should know when to ask for help.
"Every time I do a class, it seems like everybody's eyes are the size of dinner plates . . . but all I'm doing is describing in detail what a healthy, term, breastfeeding baby looks like," Frazer says. "Nobody really knows, because we live in a culture where we don't see it . . . oftentimes in this country, the first newborn that an adult holds is their own. We have a lack of knowledge of normal."
For Frazer, when you and your baby have "fallen off the curve of normal" is exactly the moment when you need to see a lactation consultant. "Because if you have a visit at that point, before you've been struggling for days, it's way easier to help."
Before you begin writing your plan, it's important to understand and describe what a healthy breastfeeding session looks like — preferably by taking a prenatal class. Next, create your written document. (You can find an example breastfeeding plan to download at Breastmilk Counts.) The first section should pertain to the hospital and clarify your goals to medical professionals. Section two is your plan for breastfeeding at home. Add a third section for your plan if you'll be going back to work.
As a section one goal, Frazer suggests trying for a natural, vaginal birth if possible — but that doesn't always go as planned. If you have a C-section, ask for skin-to-skin time with your baby as soon as possible, because it's been proven to increase breastfeeding rates. Clearly note on your breastfeeding plan that you want to attempt your first nursing session within an hour after birth — again, if possible. After birth, "zero baby and mom separation is ideal, and that's something people can ask for," explains Frazer. So be sure to write that down, especially if you're not giving birth at a Baby Friendly Hospital. Also, specify that you don't want a bottle, unless medically necessary. According to Frazer, you should plan to breastfeed without aids — like a pacifier — for the first six weeks.
For section two — your home plan — lactation consultant Tera Hamann, BSN, RN, IBCLC gets down to brass tacks. Do you have "nursing clothes, bras, breast pads, pacifiers, a comfy chair, and help with meals and chores" lined up at home? Do you have a designated nursing station? Does your partner know to bring you a protein-rich snack every two hours, and to make sure your water bottle is always full? What about vitamins? Hamann suggests to Romper that you continue with your prenatals and at least 6,400 units of vitamin D, but check with your doctor to make the right choice for you. She also recommends learning about babywearing, which can help facilitate breastfeeding, according to La Leche League. Considering such seemingly small details can increase your chances of success.
Finally, you've reached section three — going back to work. Research a pump in advance, advises Hamann, and know your rights for workplace pumping. "Is there a clean, private place to pump? What measures need to be taken to ensure you get breaks?" According to Hamann, you should start pumping at week six once a day, or every other day in the morning, to have milk ready to take to the office. Also take along some pictures and videos of your little one to get things flowing.
If you need more inspiration for your breastfeeding plan, Hamann recommends reviewing Unicef's 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. She also notes that, as with a birth plan, it's important to be flexible. You never know what challenges you'll face. She also agrees with Frazer that prenatal education is critical:
"The best thing a mom can do to prepare is go to classes, attend support groups, and discuss her goals and seek out support from her community. The more you are educated . . . the more likely you are to succeed.
As if you needed another reason to pick up a baby book.
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